By Eric Elezuo
Like a mustard seed, Amal Fashanu, daughter of ex-international football star, John Fashanu, has grown to become a great oak tree. The beautiful woman has transcended obstacles to become one of the best the world can offer in fashion, activism, journalism and many more.
Born on August 21, 1988 to Nigerian-born soccer ambassador, John Fashanu and Spanish model Marisol Acuna in Great Portland Hospital, London, Amal is not just a very beautiful woman as a lot of people say; she is extremely gorgeous, brilliant, focused, up to date, kind and down to earth.
Well read and highly educated, she attended St Christina’s School in London, before moving to Madrid in 1999 to study at Runnymede College. In 2006, at the age of 18, Amal started her studies at Brunel University in London, where she received a BASc in Communications and Media Studies. She followed it up with a Master’s degree in Handbag Design from IED University in Madrid.
She went ahead to float a fashion label known as Black Heart Label, a clothing brand designed to promote activism through fashion, and Amal Fashanu Handbags, a brand that creates luxury handbags and accessories while promoting small businesses, in addition to her contributory write ups to the Huffington Post, The Guardian, and OK Nigeria, not to mention that she is an ambassador to You You Mentoring. Amal is practically a woman of many parts.
Amal’s sojourn into the world of fashion was nothing accidental because back in the university, she had a successful career in modeling, stepping out alongside Professor Green for Puma in FHM among others.
Reveling successfully as a presenter, journalist, fashion designer and activist against homophobia in sport, Amal among many firsts, has produced a BBC3 documentary Britain’s Gay Footballers, just as she runs the Justin Fashanu foundation; a foundation she and her father set up in honour of her uncle, Justin, who she loved so dearly, to eliminate prejudice and tackle homophobia in sport. Justin, who was Britain’s first black £1m footballer, and openly gay, died in 1998 at the age of 37. Amal was barely 10 years then.
Following Justin’s death, Amal in 2012, at the age of 24 had her BBC 3 Documentary Britain’s Gay Footballers released. It received critical acclaim, lending credence and popularity to the young presenter, and launching her on the path to stardom. The documentary explored homophobia and discrimination within the football world, and was nominated for numerous awards, including a British Broadcasting Award in 2013.
The success of her first documentary emboldened her to make a second attempt, and that birth the The Batman Shootings also in 2012. The documentary covered the massacre in a US cinema in which 12 people were killed by a lone shooter. They were watching The Dark Knight Rises. In 2015, she released her third documentary with the title, Find A Home For My Brother. This explored the care provisions that are in place for young people with learning disabilities in the United Kingdom and Ghana. The documentary, by its title, may have been a prophesy or prediction to the final acceptance of Justin into the hall of fame though the content of the film has nothing to do with him.
Amal’s influence had been spreading fast ever since she went professional in both journalism and fashion that in 2012, she was invited by the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, to a summit on discrimination in football at Downing Street. The aftermath of her meeting with Cameron was the launch of her fashion label, Black Heart Label; it was a perfect combination of activism and fashion in promotion of equality. The fashion line is basically dedicated to her late uncle, Justin Fashanu.
As an activist against homophobia, Amal has done her homework, clearing every iota of obstacle against gay footballers from coming out to the open.
“I think it has got easier because we have moved on in life and in general. I think everyone, in other industries, we’re very happy to accept is gay or who is whatever they choose to be, but I guess within football, because it is such a close-knit, dark archaic kind of vibe, it’s very difficult.
“I think today, if a footballer came out it would be definitely not even half as bad as Justin coming out, but I think it would still be hard, it would still be a challenge. But what’s harder, to live pretending to be someone else or to be yourself?” She said, noting as well that there are about seven other gay footballers in the English Premier League.
She had noted that the day Justin was inducted into the hall of fame was her happiest in her nearly 32 years of existence, describing the experience as a ‘pivotal moment’ in football.
Justin, who was Britain’s first and only out gay male professional footballer, was posthumously inducted into the National Football Museum’s Hall of Fame in February.
In his honour, Amal runs The Justin Fashanu Foundation, which she established in 2019. The Foundation focuses on awareness and education, with key areas of support in mental health, homophobia and racism in football. She has confirmed that the Foundation is providing counseling for five secretly gay football stars. Her efforts, in addition, have turned the minds of Justin’s family back to him with his brother, John, a trustee of the Foundation.
She said: “My Dad definitely regrets that. I’m very pleased to know that he has changed. His mind is in a different place now. I can have conversations like this with him. I can talk to him about it. His understanding is completely different.